Virginia Tech chooses James Thorp to head Electrical and Computer Engineering Department

BLACKSBURG, Va., April 30, 2004 – James S. Thorp, a member of the National Academy of Engineering, will become the head of Virginia Tech's Bradley Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE), effective July 1.

Thorp, who has spent most of his professional life at Cornell University where he received both teaching and research awards, anticipates that Virginia Tech's electrical and computer engineering program will be "considered as one of the nation's top ten departments in both undergraduate and graduate programs.

"To do so would mean continuing the department's leadership in existing areas and to focus on selected emerging areas such as nanoscience, complex systems, and energy and environment," Thorp said.

Hassan Aref, dean of Virginia Tech's College of Engineering, announced Thorp's appointment after a nationwide search. "The college is extremely fortunate to attract a researcher and administrator of the caliber of Professor Thorp to our campus. His record of administration at Cornell is superb. I believe his vision for our Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering will complement our overall goals to make the engineering college truly outstanding."

Thorp said he plans to build upon the ECE community "through effective recruitment, the provision of common space, presentation of events and activities, innovative teaching, effective advising, leadership opportunities, professional development, and academic support, all critical in establishing a sense of community and collegiality."

Thorp served as the director of the school of electrical engineering at Cornell from 1994 until 2001. During that time, he hired nearly half of the school's existing faculty. He secured eight assistant professors who would receive a National Science Foundation Career Award, one of the most prestigious honors given to a person beginning an academic career. Thorp also increased his department's funding substantially and participated in the planning of a new $100 million building for nanoscience.

Since 1994 he has held Cornell's Charles N. Mellowes Professorship in Engineering. At Virginia Tech, he will hold the Hugh and Ethel Kelly Professorship.

Among his honors, Thorp is a Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and received the 2001 Power Engineering Society Career Service Award. He received four teaching awards from Cornell where he started as an assistant professor upon receiving his doctorate.

He earned his bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees from Cornell in 1959, 1961, and 1962, respectively.

The College of Engineering at Virginia Tech is internationally recognized for its excellence in 14 engineering disciplines and computer science. The college's 5,600 undergraduates benefit from an innovative curriculum that provides a "hands-on, minds-on" approach to engineering education, complementing classroom instruction with two unique design-and-build facilities and a strong Cooperative Education Program. With more than 50 research centers and numerous laboratories, the college offers its 2,000 graduate students opportunities in advanced fields of study such as biomedical engineering, state-of-the-art microelectronics, and nanotechnology.

Founded in 1872 as a land-grant college, Virginia Tech has grown to become the largest university in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Today, Virginia Tech's eight colleges are dedicated to putting knowledge to work through teaching, research, and outreach activities and to fulfilling its vision to be among the top 30 research universities in the nation. At its 2,600-acre main campus located in Blacksburg and other campus centers in Northern Virginia, Southwest Virginia, Hampton Roads, Richmond, and Roanoke, Virginia Tech enrolls more than 28,000 full- and part-time undergraduate and graduate students from all 50 states and more than 100 countries in 180 academic degree programs.